Syracuse suspends fraternity activities after racial incidents

Caitlin O'Kane

Syracuse University has suspended all fraternity activities for the rest of this semester after several racist and anti-Semitic incidents were reported at the school, CBS New York reports. In one of the most recent incidents, a female student said several fraternity members and their guests verbally attacked her, calling her the N-word.

This was at least the sixth racially-charged incident in 10 days, CBS New York reports. It occurred Saturday night and prompted protests at the school. Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud posted a video message to students, staff and alumni, hoping to calm the outrage. 

"I have deep appreciation of the pain, anger and anxiety recent events have caused on our campus," Syverud said. "The social activities of all fraternities have been suspended for the remainder of this semester."

In a statement obtained by CBS News, Syverud said university leaders spent all night investigating the incidents. The Department of Public safety had assembled substantial evidence, including security camera video, eyewitness accounts and interviews, regarding the Saturday night incident. 

"The individuals involved have been identified and will be held appropriately accountable to the Code of Student Conduct and to the full extent of the law," Syverud said. "We are working with the Syracuse Police Department, and we intend to bring this investigation to a swift and successful conclusion."

Isaac Howland, who goes to Syracuse, compared the punishment of no social events for a month to a slap on the wrist. "There's definitely like bubbling tension," the graduate student told CBS New York. "It doesn't seem like it's gonna have much long-lasting effect beyond the semester or, at best, next semester. It's just like, yeah, you guys can't throw any more parties."

In other racially-charged incidents at Syracuse, cars parked on campus have been defaced with racist symbols and anti-Asian and anti-Semitic graffiti. Now, university public safety cars are parked outside various dorms and buildings where these incidents occurred.

But that didn't stop another incident from occurring Monday, when the university's Department of Public Security announced it was investigating "racist graffiti using language that is derogatory to African Americans" on the fifth floor of a residence hall.

theta-tau-frat-house-syracuse-university.jpg

A file image of Syracuse University's Theta Tau fraternity house. WTVH-TV

Students have held peaceful protests like sit-ins to demand a different punishment for the perpetrators. The students' list of demands for university officials includes allocating $1 million to create new curriculum on diversity issues. They've given the university a Wednesday deadline.

This is not the first time the university has dealt with disturbing acts on campus. In 2018, video surfaced showing members of the Theta Tau fraternity making racist, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks. The fraternity was expelled and all 18 students involved were suspended, according to CBS New York.

The State Police Hate Crimes Task Force and the Division of Human Rights have been directed by Governor Cuomo to investigate the vandalism, and a donor has put up $50,000 for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for these racist acts, CBS New York reports.

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